Guinea Pigs/Wet Cheek


QUESTION: Hi, I have two female guinea pigs living together in a large outdoor run. I have noticed one of them has a constantly wet cheek, which i think is from the other one licking her there. This is causing her to loose some fur there and i'm also concerned that it might cause some other health problems for her with it being wet and a chance of a bacterial infection of some sort. Is there any cream or ointment that i can apply to her cheek or some other method so as it deters the other from licking her on the cheek that will be safe for both?


Ethyl\'s abscess
Ethyl's abscess  
Healing abscess
Healing abscess  
ANSWER: My first impression Jayden, is that she may have an abscess under that fur that is draining a bit and that's where the wet it coming from. If your girls happen to be longhaired or one of the coated breeds rather than the smooth short coated American, you may not see what is actually under there.

I'm assuming when you say the cheek you mean the side of the face? this is a common spot for abscesses. The other very common spot is under the chin and we call that a subglotal abscess. I've attached a picture of an Abyssinian that was brought to me by a Kindergarten class. Ethyl was their class pet and the children of course loved her. She developed this large swelling and because of her irregular coat growth and the multiple rosettes they didn't see it until it was very large.

Not having the financial resources to take her to the vet they asked if I could help. The abscess was opened, drained and cleansed daily and within a week she was back in school. The first picture was about two days after I got her. The second was five days later and the wound was healing well. Although to an untrained eye the healing picture may still look bad, but the pink tissue around the wound and the clean shine inside is what healing tissue looks like.

If you could take a picture of this wetness you're describing and send it to me I may be able to see whether or not she's really got an abscess or is it saliva.  It's unlikely that she would allow the other pig to lick to the point of keeping her cheek wet. If there is a bacterial abscess and it's swelling that would also explain the hair loss. The skin gets very sore and red and the hair follicles die resulting in the hair loss. This usually returns once the problem is fixed.

Please do your best to send me a picture and we'll see if we can figure this out. In answer to your question about a cream or ointment, no there is not.

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wet cheek 2
wet cheek 2  
wet cheek 1
wet cheek 1  

Thank you for your reply.
I have attached two pictures for you and hopefully they add some insite to the problem.

I can not see any signs of sores/abscess.

I thought that she might have a mite irritation a while ago and treated her with a mite solution that always works the couple of times they have gotten them, but this hasnt seemed to solved the problem.

As she is old and they have been together along time and the other one is more timid than her and follows her quite closely a lot of the time, I did notice the other pig with her face at her cheek yesterday and cant think of any other reason for it being so wet.

It has been like this for over one to two months now.

My son thinks it may be her preening herself.?

i was thinking maybe some betadine cream/solution for any bacterial problems that may be caused by the continual moist environment and also for the taste as a deterrent.?


Cavy teeth
Cavy teeth  
Wet cheek
Wet cheek  
ANSWER: Thank you for the pictures.  You did a good job. By the way, in case you didn't already know her color, she is a Golden Agouti.

This is not preening. Guinea pigs don't make that much saliva unless there is a tooth issue. I put a circle around the picture you sent. Can you double check that spot and see if there is a tiny hole? If there is then it's an abscess that is draining itself. If you don't see a hole there I suspect she may have a malaligned tooth that is actually growing out of control on the inside of that cheek.

I actually had a lady bring me a young Golden Agouti I had sold her saying there was something growing out of her nose. There was indeed something white there. I was unable to move it to 'remove' what we thought might be a foreign body. It was hard and stationary. I suggested she take it to a vet we knew that was very cavy knowledgeable. She had a tooth that had started growing backwards and came up through the nasal passage. The vet clipped it and pulled the remaining incisor. The tooth grew back normally. None of us including the vet had ever seen anything like this.

I had an old GA very much like your girl that began to develop a swelling under the chin which I thought was a subglottal abscess, except that after opening it there was no foul smelling pus that usually accompanies that type of thing. She was quite old and was beginning to lose weight which is often evidence of the beginnings of goodbye. Because of her advanced age I didn't want to put her through a torturous treatment regime of antibiotics, etc. She appeared comfortable so I made the decision not to get aggressive with treatment.

She did pass away in shortly after. Upon post mortem examination I found a tooth that was growing back into her esophagus. Another rarity, but sometimes in older pigs they don't chew sufficiently to keep their teeth properly worn and they can get out of proper alignment without our being able to see what is going on.

Trying to open the mouth to see the back teeth is quite difficult. The fronts are visible easily, but the back teeth with which they grind their food are hard to see because the cheeks collapse inward when you open the mouth wide, hiding the molars. If you do not see or smell anything foul on this cheek then I suspect it may be dental and coming from the inside. This is going to be tough one because of her age and the cost of trying to correct it. Even a young pig doesn't always do well with major treatment that requires sedation, and an old senior is not a candidate for sedation.

If this were my girl I would consider whether she is comfortable, showing any sign of distress and evaluate her overall health, taking into consideration her age. If she's eating, drinking and not showing sign of illness it might be better to leave it alone. The other pig is sensing something that is out of order. She may smell something that we cannot and is reacting as animals will by licking it. But I don't think all that wetness is just saliva.

Wash the area with a Betadine/Water solution. A cup of warm water and a tablespoon of Betadine solution is enough. Cleanse the area really well. You might even be able to shave the cheek a bit so you can better see the skin. If there is a hole, use a syringe and squirt some of that Betadine mixture into it a couple of times a day. That will help it to heal.

We didn't talk about the front teeth, but it's possible they could overgrown and that too could cause excess salivation. Trimming the front teeth is an easy task.

If it is a molar dental issue that complicates the situation. You'd have to decide if you want to spend the money for a vet to see if anything can be done. I hope my suggestion about not treating doesn't offend you. That is not my intent. I'm trying to be realistic and consider both the welfare of the animal as well as your bank account.

I've attached a picture of cavy dentition to get a better idea of why it's so difficult to see the back teeth. Also gives a clearer understanding of just how long the incisors, or fronts are. Cavy teeth never stop growing. They don't have the nerves in them the way humans do, so clipping the front teeth is like clipping nails. The grow back at an alarming rate.

And while I'm typing this I've suddenly had a thought about another possibility. Watch her closely to see if she gets on her water bottle, hits the tip with her mouth then lets the water dribble over her cheek. I've had pigs that would do that and could drain a water bottle in a day. The cure was a simple one.  I raised the bottle so they had to almost stand on their hind legs and stretch to get it. That stopped the "let's play dump the water" game.

Hopefully we can narrow this down and find out just what is actually going on. So please keep in touch. I check this site at least twice daily, so I'm close at hand even though I'm in the US.

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wet cheek
wet cheek  

Thank you again for your time and all the information.
I can appreciate that it is not easy to assess the problem without physically seeing the gp.

I checked the area again and still couldn't see anything but have applied betadine just as a precaution.

The area doesn't smell and isn't 'sticky' like an ooze from an infection.

I also couldn't feel any abnormality in her jaw, but that isn't to say that if it was a molar problem that it growing in some other direction as you stated can happen.
I wasn't able to open her mouth enough to see the back molars but i will try again later.
But she did seem to be a bit more sensitive in the wet area when touched.

She still seems to be eating, drinking and everything normally and is happy.

I have added a picture of her front teeth and was wondering if her lower teeth are too elongated?
If they are is it just a case of trimming 1-2mm off with pet nail clippers, or is there more to it than that?

Once again thank you so much for all of your time and advice.

Happy new year.


The front teeth appear to be fine. As you see in the cavy skull picture those incisors are very long and that's normal. Of course with being able to visualize the actual formation of normal teeth you can get a sense of how much of those teeth are into the gum. Normal alignment of the front teeth is top closing over the bottom by about 1 cm.  Your pig's teeth look fine.

If you need to or want to trim them the easiest way I've found is to put a pencil in the mouth to hold it open. That way they cannot bite down and it also assures that the tongue stays out of the way so you don't nip it.  

I have a little tool that I got at a hobby store that looks like a miniature wire cutter. It fits perfectly in your hand and is comfortable to be able to nip the teeth with.  I am not suggesting you put the pencil in the mouth like a tongue depressor, but across the mouth side to side. However, I really don't think these teeth need trimming, but as I said they will grow remarkably fast if you wish to trim them anyway. So even if you get them too short, no worries. They will still use them.

As I look at the picture of her teeth I'm thinking, Alice in Wonderland would say, it gets 'curiouser and curiouser'. If there is a tooth issue causing excess salivation you would expect to see it running out of her mouth as you hold it open. Her mouth is normally moist, but no more than normal.

If she's eating and drinking normally and you cannot find any evidence of swelling, odor or pus maybe we're trying to fix something that isn't really broken. That would make me think more about the possibility that she's playing with that water bottle and allowing it to drip on her cheek. Given her age, her apparent willingness to continue happily eating and drinking I think we might just be on a witch hunt, trying to find a cure for something that doesn't need it.

Let's try leaving her alone for awhile and see what happens. A guinea pig's appetite is the best indicator of how they feel. If they're stressed in any way, or if they're ill they just stop eating. If this were my girl I would leave her alone and let her tell you when something is really wrong.

And a Happy New Year to you and your family!  

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Pat VanAllen


As is sometimes the case, people in urgent need of information have a higher degree of expectation than those of us as experts are able to give. The experts on this site do their best to give the most accurate and responsible answers possible. We ask that you remember that it is not our intention nor place to criticize the professional advice given by your veterinarian, nor is it appropriate for us to comment on the correctness of a diagnosis made by a licensed physician. Our knowledge is experience based. Although many years of breeding and showing cavies gives me a wealth of experience it cannot change the fact that we as experts are not veterinarians and therefore may occasionally have to reject questions that appear to be asking us to criticize advice given by the licensed professional. Having raised and exhibited cavies for many years I have extensive experience in cavy care and husbandry. I currently have an active breeding program for pedigreed show animals but do not encourage backyard breeding for inexperienced owners. Although I don't encourage breeding for fun I'm always happy to answer any questions from an owner who is in sincere need of help. Pet owners wanting to breed should understand that even experienced breeders have litter losses. The mortality rate is high in cavies. The chance for losing both sow and pups is always present, even with experience. Although this is a site for experts to assist owners, there is no expert in any field who has all the answers. The wisest thing a good expert can know is their limitations. Not having an answer does not diminish one's ability or knowledge. It simply shows that we recognize our limitations and operate within them.


Raised and shown cavies for many years, having aquired my first cavies in the early 1970's as pets. My caviary currently handles 65 + animals in two different breeds and several varieties. Having been in the health care industry as a licensed nurse for 35 years I have hands on experience with care and needs in both humans and cavies. Member of American Rabbit Breeders Association and American Cavy Breeders Association.

Awarded Lifetime Membership in of one of the oldest cavy clubs in the United States, on whose Board I served as Sec/Treas for six years and currently serving as President. Also editor/publisher of the club's quarterly newsletter. We are strong supporters of our youth exhibitors, most of whom are 4H members who are working on cavy projects. Through these projects they become good responsible citizens. We deal with all aspects of showing, breeding, caring for and sharing experiences in the fancy. The cavy fancy is not a new one but in some areas is still relatively unknown. Our goal is to inspire interest in high quality, responsible breeding to improve the species, not just the reproduction of guinea pigs. Our job is to educate owners to help them make the right decisions and choices in the care of their cavies.

Graduate in nursing. Certified in emergency medicine.

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